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Guide to Buying a Home in Pennsylvania

homes in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to a rich history, colorful culture, and beautiful scenery. The state has more than 120 parks, 100 miles of coastline, and great towns and cities, each with their own culture and character. No wonder the Keystone State is considered one of the best places to live in the US.

If you wish to move to Pennsylvania, you’ll have to identify which part of this great state you’d like to settle in. The five geographical regions are:

  • The Atlantic Coast Plain in southeastern Pennsylvania runs parallel to The Delaware River. It includes most of Philadelphia and southeastern parts of Bucks and Delaware Counties. It is the home of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were drafted, and the Liberty Bell.
  • The Piedmont Region to the west of the Atlantic Coastal Plain features rolling hills and a mild climate. It includes the counties of Franklin, Adams, Cumberland, York, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Chester, Berks, Montgomery, Bucks, Lehigh, and Northampton. This is the region where the Amish live, a community of Christian Amish Mennonites descended from the Dutch immigrants who settled in the area 300 years ago. Their culture has remained largely unchanged since then.
  • Ridge and Valley lies between Piedmont and the Allegheny Plateau, a region that forms part of the Great Valley of the Appalachian Mountain system. It hosts the state capital, Harrisburg, in an area known for its economic and geoheritage resources. One of its attractions is the Capitol building, which was patterned after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
  • Allegheny Plateau, the largest region in northern and western Pennsylvania, covers almost half of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s where you’ll find Pittsburgh and the state’s highest peak, Mount Davis, in Somerset County.
  • Erie Plain is the smallest region in the northwestern part of Pennsylvania. Named for the lake and the Native Americans who first settled in the area, the region is part of the Great Lakes snowbelt. Its namesake city is the fourth largest in Pennsylvania and lies in an area where America’s first commercial vineyard was established in 1787. Shareholders included the political and financial A-listers of the day like Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Johns Hopkins, and Robert Morris.

Once you’ve identified the area you’d like to move to, make sure you:

  1. Assess your financial situation

    Before embarking on the home buying process, review and evaluate your financial situation. Set a budget based on the rule of thumb that the monthly payments on your mortgage should not exceed 30% of your income. Also, keep in mind that a 20% down payment is usually required once your offer on a property is accepted.

    Remember:

    • Your credit score will determine whether you qualify for a loan and for how much. For conventional loans, lenders typically look for a minimum credit score of 670. Learn more about obtaining your credit scores and reports here.
    • Your debt-to-income ratio is the amount of debt comprising your monthly income. Ideally, your debt should only be 35% of what you make. Lenders use this as a way to measure how responsibly you manage your finances. If your debt exceeds 35% of your income, lenders see this as your inability to take on additional financial obligations.
  2. Find a reputable real estate agent in Pennsylvania

    A reputable real estate agent benefits a homebuyer in more ways than one. Real estate agents help homebuyers understand the buying procedures in the state. They can also handle the flood of paperwork common to such transactions.

    Other benefits of using a real estate agent:

    • Knowledge of the community, comparable home prices, market
    • conditions, and home buying and real estate tips specific to the area
    • Finding properties that suit the needs and budget of the homebuyer
    • A network of allied professionals such as home inspectors and mortgage lenders
    • Assistance in crafting offers
    • Negotiating the final deal
  3. Get pre-approved for mortgage

    A pre-approval letter from a lender shows the seller that you’re a serious buyer. Your agent can use this fact to sweeten your offer – as a way to drive the point that you’re ready to close as soon as possible. (A mortgage pre-approval lasts for 60 to 90 days only because your financial circumstances may change in the interim.) Getting pre-approved gives the seller the confidence that if they accept your offer, guaranteed financing would close the deal.

  4. Zero in on the right neighborhood

    The right neighborhood is as important as the house. Assess the lifestyle and existing amenities of the neighborhood and weigh them against your personal needs and preferences. Consider access to public transportation, walkability, school district, green and open spaces, and proximity to shops. Look also for recently sold homes in the community to gauge how the property appreciates over time, especially if you hope to sell your home in the future.

  5. Order a home inspection

    Though the law does not require individuals to hire a home inspector, it is always best to get one to find out what sort of shape the property is in. Buyers usually make a contingent offer upon an inspection report that covers:

    • Foundation, floors, walls, and structural integrity
    • Termites and other pests
    • Conditions leaving a possibility for mold growth
    • Drainage and erosion
    • Home system issues such as heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical
  6. Seek housing assistance

    In Pennsylvania, the Housing Finance Agency provides affordable home ownership for first-time homebuyer programs in Chester Country and other communities across the state. To be considered a first-time homebuyer, one must not have owned a primary residence during the past three years. See housing programs here.

    The Keystone Advantage Assistance Loan Program serves first-time homebuyers, discharged veterans of the US Armed Forces, and homebuyers in targeted Pennsylvania counties. The loans can be conventional mortgages, FHA loans, VA loans, or USDA loans.

  7. Understand the closing process

    Finally, once your offer on a home has been accepted, it’s time to close. On average, the process takes from 30 to 45 days. Don’t forget to factor in your closing costs, which is around 2% to 5% of the price of the property. These costs include home inspections, property and transfer taxes, commissions, title transfers, insurance, and the like.

Are you planning to buy a home in Pennsylvania? We can help! The RE/MAX Direct team of real estate agents can help you find just what you’re looking for in West Chester and Southeast Pennsylvania. Our real estate agents are highly experienced and familiar in buying, selling, investing, or developing real estate. Call 610.430.8100 or email remaxdirectwc@gmail.com so we can start working on finding your dream home today.